Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France on Sunday with a business-friendly vision of European integration, defeating Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who threatened to take France out of the European Union.
The centrist’s emphatic victory, which also smashed the dominance of France’s mainstream parties, will bring huge relief to European allies who had feared another populist upheaval to follow Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president.
Pollsters’ projections gave Macron a winning margin of around 65 percent to 35 – a gap wider than the 20 or so percentage points that pre-election surveys had suggested.
Even so, it was a record performance for the National Front, a party whose anti-immigrant policies once made it a pariah in French politics, and underlined the scale of the divisions that Macron must now try to heal.
“I know the divisions in our nation, which have led some to vote for the extremes. I respect them,” Macron said in an earnest address at his campaign headquarters, shown live on television.
“I know the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that very many of you have also expressed. It’s my responsibility to hear them,” he said. “I will work to recreate the link between Europe and its peoples, between Europe and citizens.”
His immediate challenge will be to secure a majority in next month’s parliamentary election for En Marche! (Onwards!), a political movement that is barely a year old, in order to implement his programme.
President Francois Hollande, who first brought Macron into national politics, said the result “confirms that a very large majority of our fellow citizens wanted to unite around the values of the Republic and show their attachment to the European Union”.